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Japan inflation quickens on back of sales tax hike

Japan's inflation came in as expected in June, data showed on Friday, boosted by the consumption tax hike that took effect in April.

Nationwide core consumer price index (CPI) rose 3.3 percent in June year on year, in line with a Reuters estimate and against the 3.4 percent uptick in May.

The core Tokyo CPI for July, a leading indicator, climbed an annual 2.8 percent, slightly better than a 2.7 percent rise forecast by Reuters and following the 2.8 percent gain in June.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Japanese yen was little changed against the dollar on the news, staying around 101.75 after hitting a one-week high of 101.82 overnight.

Japan raised its sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in April, in a bid to reduce its hefty debt pile, which is one of the highest among the world's industrialized countries.

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Stripping out the sales tax effect using a formula by the Bank of Japan, the June core CPI rose 1.3 percent on year, compared with the 1.4 percent increase in the year to May.

"This is a pretty much expected number. Generally speaking, the environment is pretty positive so I think it's a perfect market for stock pickers versus making macro bets," Ayako Hirota Weissman, director of Asia Strategy & senior portfolio manager at Horizon Kinetics, told CNBC.

The BOJ has kept its inflation target at 2 percent by next year, as its unprecedented quantitative easing unleashed last year is expected to bolster prices.

Despite increased pressure for more monetary stimulus to support Shinzo Abe's radical policies to reflate the economy, analysts say the BOJ is unlikely to budge for now.

"What [the Japanese inflation data] really underscores is that the underlying trend of the inflation is still on the soft side if you strip out some of the impact from the VAT hike in April. That said, I don't think it suggests that the BOJ should be lining up any type of easing soon. I think that's still very much off the cards," said Paul Mackel, head of Asia currency research at HSBC.

Contact Asia Economy

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